Imagine driving to a restaurant with turn-by-turn directions overlaid in front of you, or cooking dinner while the instructions and timer hover above the pot. This is the basic idea of augmented reality – useful information available directly in front of you.

Science fiction films often predicted we’d be living in fully augmented reality worlds by the year 2000, using the technologies as part of day-to-day life. This tech is just starting to make its way into reality, with new devices like Google Glass paving the way.

Augmented reality – unlike virtual reality – will likely upset many social conventions, and find difficulty in initial widespread adoption thanks to privacy concerns.

While bringing out a cellphone to take a photo is a noticeable action that requires a brief setup, a photo with Google glass is discreet, and done with wink of the eyes.

In the 2002 film Minority Report, Tom Cruise manipulated visual imagery by wearing gloves and glasses, flinging video and documents around the room to piece together crimes. The technology shown could be considered prescient, as new pieces of augmented reality like Google Glass offer a similar experience – though on a much smaller scale.

With the latest device from Google, users simply put on a pair glasses with an integrated computer that displays video in the top corner of a users vision. The glasses can display turn-by-turn directions, video calling read out information about local areas.

The benefits here over cellphones are obvious, as it means people will be able to stay focused on current tasks while simultaneously operating additional functions. When someone is building, for example, the technology can display instructions. In education, additional information can be overlaid on a wall for students.

Augmented reality faces a tougher road to adoption, and it remains uncertain whether the technology will see widespread uptake in the near future. Unlike virtual reality, the privacy concerns of the technology need to be addressed.

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